The cold season is here with us, and it’s the time when most people suffer from the common cold—a viral infectious disease, usually, of the upper respiratory tract. Though harmless and self-treatable, a cold is probably the last thing you may want to endure this winter season, considering the discomfort that comes with the symptoms.
Symptoms usually show up one to three days after you become infected with the virus, and may last between three to ten days or even longer for others, especially if you smoke. The severity also varies from one individual to the other, and so do the symptoms themselves.
The most common signs include:
Eight Key Symptoms of a Common Cold
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Sore throat
- Mild headaches
- Low-grade fever
- Slight body aches
Causes of the Common Cold
Various viruses can cause the common cold; however, rhinoviruses and coronaviruses are the primary culprits. These viruses find their way into your body through the nose, eyes, or mouth. They are easily spread via tiny droplets in the air, especially when an infected individual sneezes, coughs, or talks.
You can also contract a cold by direct contact with contaminated surfaces, objects, infected persons, and secretions. In most cases, people touch their eyes, nose, or mouth unconsciously after such contact and get infected.
Unfortunately, there is no known cure or vaccine for the common cold; however, over-the-counter medication can be administered to help relieve the symptoms. Also, natural remedies such as a hot steamy bath, enough rest, and good nutrition have proven to offer relief and help cope with the symptoms.
Below are the other remedies you can try to help ease your symptoms:
Ten Effective Common Cold Remedies
Common cold treatment is all about managing the symptoms, and here is how you can do that:
1. Adequate rest
Simply sleep it off. Sleep is crucial in the body’s healing process as it allows your immune system to ward off infections. It plays a vital role in boosting your immune system and thus a great way to ensure an enhanced recovery process from a cold.
But how do you ensure a sound sleep with all the discomfort of a sore throat, runny nose, congestion, and cough?
a) Use pillows to shore up your head
Ensure your head is elevated when you lay down to help prevent the accumulation of mucus at the back of your throat, otherwise, the accumulation may lead to congestion. You’ll, therefore, be left with no choice but to breathe through your mouth, something that will dry out your throat further, thus aggravating the pain.
b) Add moisture
You can use a humidifier or simply a cool-mist vaporizer, but make sure you change the water daily and clean the unit (as per the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions) to prevent mold or mildew from building up.
A humidifier works by increasing moisture content in the air, thus relieving dry sinuses.
c) Take hot tea—this can be decaf green tea, peppermint tea, or ginger tea.
Hot beverages help clear nasal passages and ease congestion.
d) Use honey instead of normal sugar
Honey is believed to be a powerful cough remedy, so add it to your tea.
2. Stay hydrated
Not all beverages offer relief from cold symptoms. In fact, others like alcohol only worsen the situation. Instead of keeping you hydrated, alcohol will dehydrate you—simply by drying out your mucous membranes and further causing discomfort, making it impossible to fight the virus.
On the other hand, drinking lots of fluids like water, mint tea, and lemon juice helps you stay hydrated and allows for the optimal operation of your immune system. Good hydration helps loosen congestion to make you feel better when battling a common cold.
3. Gargle with warm salt water
The salt here helps pull the mucus out of your inflamed tissues, thus relieving the discomfort. To prepare the mixture, mix a ¼ to ½ tablespoon salt with one cup of warm water (eight ounces) and stir until all the salt dissolves. Gargle with the solution several times a day, and be sure to spit out after several seconds.
4. Consider zinc to reduce the length of your cold
Zinc is believed to shorten the duration of a cold, especially when taken at the very first signs of a cold.
Doctors studying the impact of zinc found that it can help reduce the length of your cold and lessen nasal symptoms and coughing. However, it has no impact on fever or headache.
5. Vitamin C also shortens a cold
Though not an effective cold prevention measure, regular vitamin C supplements can help reduce a cold’s severity and duration, says the science.
Preferably, take the supplements during an infection. Why?
Even though highly concentrated in the immune cells, Vitamin C gets depleted quickly during an infection, leaving you even more vulnerable to the cold symptoms. But a boost during the infection period helps strengthen your immune system to enable you to recover faster from the cold.
6. Try a Neti pot
This is a small container designed to help rinse mucus or debris from your nasal cavity, and a saline solution is a crucial ingredient here. Researchers found that some study participants found short-term relief after nasal irrigation.
Saline solution (a mixture of salt and water) is readily available at the local drug stores, but you can still opt to make your own. Just be sure to use distilled bottled water or boil your tap water and let it cool to a lukewarm state.
Using a neti pot
Stand next to a sink with your head tilted sideways (above the sink), then gently insert the spout, the long tube on your neti pot, into the upper nostril. Breathe using your open mouth as you gently release the saline solution into the upper nostril so that it drains via the lower nostril. You can repeat the procedure on the other side.
Rinse the spout with distilled or previously boiled and cooled water, and leave it in the open to dry.
How often you use the neti pot will depend on the severity of your symptoms. Once a day is sufficient, but three or four times a day is recommended for severe symptoms. In the case of allergies or chronic issues, use at least three times a week to help curb the symptoms.
7. Saline drops
This is mainly for young kids who may find it intolerable to use the neti pot to clear the nasal passage. In such a case, put in a few saline drops in each nostril and get a rubber bulb suction to eliminate the mucus, especially if the child cannot effectively blow his/her nose.
8. Hot steamy shower
With congestion, an extremely sore throat, and a cough, you can’t sleep. To ease such symptoms and catch some good sleep, consider a hot steamy bath before heading to bed. It not only opens the dry nasal passages but also loosens up mucus so you can rest peacefully and adequately.
Try incorporating some eucalyptus, peppermint, or rosemary essential oils into your hot shower to help relax your body and calm you down. Alternatively, use a diffuser for the essential oils.
9. Mentholated rub
Limited research findings indicate that a menthol rub on the chest and throat may help ease nose and sinus congestion instead of when it’s applied to other areas like the feet. However, anecdotal evidence and over-the-counter products seem to alleviate the stuffy nose.
Does it really work? The researchers say both yes and no. While it relieves cold symptoms in some people, others have had no positive results from using Echinacea.
You can try it out to see if it works for your symptoms. But be warned of a possible stomach-upset side effect.
Stay away from using the herb if you’re allergic to plants like marigolds, ragweed or chrysanthemums, or other daisy family plants. But if you don’t have allergies, this method is worth a try.
When should you seek a second opinion from a doctor?
The duration of the virus should be your number one telltale sign that something is wrong or you’re just experiencing the typical symptoms.
Consider visiting a doctor if you exhibit the following:
- Prolonged fever
- Persistent cough
- Unexplained chest pain or difficulty in breathing
- Persistent headache and congestion
- Difficulty in swallowing
How to lower your susceptibility to the common cold
Do you follow these hygiene habits?
1 – Wash your hands often for a minimum of twenty seconds
Ensure you thoroughly clean in between your fingers and under your fingernails to erode off any hiding germs. You can use plain soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if you aren’t near a water source.
Then dry with a towel—preferably a paper towel. Cloth towels can also do the job, though they offer a conducive environment for the viruses to thrive, so you may want to avoid them, especially if you share the same towel with other people.
2 – Improve your general hygiene
This should include all the often-touched surfaces around your home. Things like remote control, doorknobs, phones, keyboards, toys, desks, and even countertops can easily harbor viruses just by a touch from an infected person, therefore, the need to always disinfect them.
- Avoid smoking
- In addition to damaging your throat and lungs, smoking tobacco can aggravate an already sore throat and cause you to cough even more.
- Avoid touching your face, including your mouth, nose, and eyes.
Doing so with unclean hands can allow the virus to enter your body, especially if you’ve contacted an infected person.
3 – Dispose of used tissues correctly
Put all the tissue pieces you’ve handled (sneezed on) straight to the dust bin or flush them in a toilet to help prevent depositing the viruses on other surfaces.
4 – Observe and maintain a healthy lifestyle
To achieve sound health, ensure you feed on a healthy diet, stay hydrated, get enough sleep, and exercise regularly. Regular exercises also help reduce stress, which partly contributes to the worsening of viral infections in some people.
Final Thoughts on Battling the Common Cold (and winning!)
Prevention is always better than cure, you know that. Below are some measures to help reduce your chances of infection by a cold.
Remember, a healthy lifestyle equals a strong immune system that can fight off a cold